From the Chicago Sun-Times
Dreamy perfection in sensual ‘Mrs. Caliban’
February 17, 2010
By Hedy Weiss
Brenda Barrie’s opening sequences alone worth the trip
Take note: The most erotic scene on any Chicago stage at the moment can be found at Lifeline Theatre, where a superb stage adaptation of “Mrs. Caliban” — based on the deceptively whimsical, darkly disturbing 1983 novel of the same name by Rachel Ingalls — received its world premiere Monday.
Note, too, that it hardly matters at all that the coupling here involves Dorothy, a lovely, sadly desperate housewife whose marriage has gone cold (she is played by the altogether exquisite Brenda Barrie, an actress of breathtaking expressiveness), and Larry (Peter Greenberg, revealing a previously unexplored aspect of his talent here), an aquatic creature of the large green lizard variety, who might well be a figment of Dorothy’s imagination.
The foreplay between these two could not be more winningly imagined (she offers the hungry, vegetarian-only monster stalks of celery, and later happily feeds his appetite for avocados). The sheets could not be more diaphanous. The lovers’ intimacy (including his initial crudeness) could not be more believable or more ideally choreographed. And the afterglow could not be more luminous.
Whether “Larry” is a true (and elicit) lover hardly matters. Dorothy believes in him, and so do we, be he an escaped mental patient, a prisoner on the run, a victim of torture or something altogether different. Her madness easily becomes ours, and it is compelling.
Ingalls, who grew up in Cambridge, Mass., but has lived in Europe since 1965, was catapulted into the spotlight in 1986 when the British Book Marketing Council named the barely known Mrs. Caliban one of the 20 best novels by a living, post-World War-II American writer. That aside, it surely is a story that captures the post-feminist era as it knowingly probes into the more devastating pitfalls of marriage, divorce, promiscuity and the death of a child. Its title, which uses the name of Shakespeare’s angry, battered, affection-starved slave in “The Tempest,” also suggests that love and anguish and captivity are inextricably linked.
Lifeline’s production is an entirely seamless work, with Frances Limoncelli’s spare but eloquent adaptation, Ann Boyd’s fluid yet precision-tooled direction, Julia Neary’s dreamy, comic-tinged choreography, Chelsea Warren’s subtly disorienting white-on-white set and Branimira Ivanova’s magnificent costumes all of a piece.
Barrie, who has created a series of indelible portrayals in recent seasons (in “Mariette in Ecstasy,” “Graceland” and “The Ruby Sunrise”), is a true treasure. With her alabaster skin, sonorous voice, balletic grace and palpable inner life she is worth seeing in “Mrs Caliban” for its opening sequences alone, as she repeatedly bids mechanical goodbyes to her detached husband, washes dishes and dances into deep fantasy to the sound of classical music on the radio.
Greenberg, ordinarily the master of crisp, brainy British gents, displays an impressive sensual heat, humor and woundedness in his eerily “beached” character. And there is smart work by Dan Granata as Dorothy’s lost husband, Jenifer Tyler as her shrilly stylish yet broken best friend, and Monica Dionysiou as everyone from saleswoman to savage teenager.
From Time Out Chicago
February 17, 2010
By Caitlin Montanye Parrish
If The Tempest belonged to Prospero’s daughter, Miranda, instead of all those boys, it might look like Ingalls’s 1983 novel Mrs. Caliban. In Limoncelli’s high-spirited adaptation, it’s a deeply funny story of grief and emotional shipwreck.
Dorothy (Barrie) cleans her perfectly white home morning after morning, once her emotionally distant husband has gone. Slowly but surely, life’s disappointments congeal into a gentle madness, embodied by the arrival of a loving and lovable sea monster named Larry. Dorothy falls for the creature and begins to concoct an escape plan for the pair of them—not just to flee the scientists in pursuit of Larry but to break free from Dorothy’s claustrophobic life.
While Brandon Wardell’s sumptuous lights and Chelsea Warren’s off-kilter white set aid Dorothy’s journey from sanitized mourning to unbridled desire, the duty of grounding this fairy tale falls largely on the cast’s capable shoulders. Barrie is as nimble as ever; whether dancing to alleviate the boredom of chores or wailing on the seashore to call her lover home, she lends the integrity of heartbreak to a story that could easily slide into the ridiculous. Greenberg’s laconic and oddly sexy Larry, meanwhile, walks the line between laughable and tragic.
From the Northwest Indiana Times
Rush to see ‘Mrs. Caliban’
February 19, 2010
By Carol Moore
“Mrs. Caliban,” the new production at Lifeline Theatre, is a play full of contradictions.
At first it seems to be about the dull realism of everyday life. Fred (Dan Granata) and Dorothy (Brenda Barrie, a native of Whiting-Robertsdale area) barely speak to one another as they get on with life. He goes to his job and his mistress. She stays home, with the radio for company. Their marriage died as a result of a tragedy — the death of their son during a routine appendectomy.
Dorothy’s best friend Estelle (Jenifer Tyler), a divorced mother of two, is looking for love, while her daughter Sandra (Monica Dionysiou) is throwing herself at Estelle’s former lover.
But then suddenly Dorothy is off on a weird — or is it magical journey — when a green sea monster who has escaped from a lab turns up in her kitchen. Although Dorothy should be afraid, she’s not — because, after all, someone called “Larry” (Peter Greenberg), who loves avocados, couldn’t really be a monster, could he? The monster is sort of gentle and kind, so Dorothy hides him in her son’s room. The monster doesn’t chase the human in this story. Instead, she is obsessed with him.
This is an enigmatic play which will keep you guessing. As my friend Karen and I left the theater, we were still trying to figure it out. If you’re a reader, Lifeline Theatre is the place for you since most of their productions are original stage adaptations of interesting books. “Mrs. Caliban,” is an adaptation of a novel by Rachel Ingalls which I’m definitely going to read.